Philippines: Senators call for safeguards to bank secrecy easing

  • SENATORS signaled caution on easing bank secrecy laws, one of the issues that led Malacañang to veto parts of Republic Act 11213 or the Tax Amnesty Law, noting that safeguards are needed to prevent the use of bank account inquiries to harass taxpayers.
  • Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian said provisions to ease bank secrecy in a general tax amnesty program require “a balancing act” of the various interests because bank account probes could be used for harassment.
  • In his veto message Mr. Duterte noted that the objective of the amnesty program may not effectively be carried out due to the absence of provisions lifting bank secrecy, the automatic exchange of information with foreign tax authorities, and mechanisms to ensure the truthfulness of asset or net declarations in amnesty applications.
  • Sen. Joel J. Villanueva, vice chair of the Senate committee on ways and means, said the veto message of the President was reasonable and expressed support for the inclusion of such safeguards if the measure is reintroduced in the 18th Congress.
  • Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said there was a need for both the legislative and executive branches to agree on the parameters of the general tax amnesty proposal to prevent another veto.
  • “I think we should sit with the Executive department first and agree on the parameters so we do not waste time and effort, not to mention the money wasted on hearings and sessions that could have been spent for other agreeable legislation,” he told reporters.
  • Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson on 18 Feb 19 expressed support for the passage of a general tax amnesty bill in the 18th Congress with provisions requested by Mr. Duterte, but noted that lawmakers may be “wary” over the issue of relaxed bank secrecy.

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